U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-6th District, wrote to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday to request a briefing on the efforts CDC is taking to educate the public and prevent heat illnesses among youth athletes.
In a statement Pallone’s office said that the letter comes in the wake of several of these avoidable tragedies, including one affecting a family in his home state of New Jersey.
For example, in August 2018, Braeden Bradforth, a New Jersey resident and gifted athlete, died tragically on the campus of Garden City Community College in Kansas, where he received a scholarship to play football. An autopsy revealed that his death was due to exertional heat stroke, which he suffered after an evening football practice.
Exertional heat illnesses, including heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and exertional heat stroke are a concern for many parents and youth athletes, especially in the spring and summer months. More than 9,000 high school athletes are treated for heat illnesses each year, and hundreds more heat illness events are reported in collegiate athletics. Although exertional heat stroke is preventable and has a lower prevalence than other heat illnesses, it is responsible for two percent of sport-related deaths, and 15 percent of all football deaths annually.
“Braeden was an exceptional young man and talented athlete, whose tragic death is a reminder that we must do more to prevent heat-related deaths in young athletes,” Pallone said. “I sent this letter to the CDC, because it is unacceptable that we continue to hear stories of deaths from heat-related illnesses even though these deaths are entirely preventable. Mothers and fathers should be able to send their kids to sports programs with the full confidence that athletic trainers, coaches, and staff have the training to respond quickly to athletes experiencing symptoms of heat-related illnesses. I offer Braeden’s mother my deepest condolences, and I have let her know that my Committee will send this letter to the CDC today.”
The Congressman planned to meet with Braeden’s mother, JoAnne Atkins-Ingram, in his Long Branch office Thursday.
In his letter to the CDC, Congressman Pallone wrote: “I am concerned that players, coaches, trainers, and other athletics staff may not be aware of the warning signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses, nor may they know how to treat heat-related illnesses when they occur. As a result, athletes may be exposed to or suffer from heat-related illnesses that may be preventable. As we approach the summer months, when many of these incidents occur, I ask that you provide me information about CDC’s current activities related to promoting prevention and treatment techniques to youth and student players, coaches, trainers, and other athletics staff. I also request that you conduct a review of the CDC’s current activities and provide the Committee an analysis of what additional efforts may be helpful for CDC or other government bodies to consider to prevent further tragedies going forward.
“While a full investigation of the events surrounding Braeden’s tragic and untimely death must be conducted, we know deaths from heat-related illnesses are preventable. We should not waste any time in working to ensure that another family does not suffer a loss like the one the Bradforth family has endured,” Pallone continued in his letter to the CDC. “I appreciate that CDC has published tips and warnings for athletes in extreme heat, however, the repeated examples of deaths from heat-related illnesses remains troubling,” said Pallone.
A copy of the letter to the Centers for Disease Control is available here.